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Michelle Singletary
Washington Post Personal Finance Columnist
Thursday, September 11, 2008; 12:00 PM

Need advice about how to handle your personal finances? Whether the struggle is saving for retirement, organizing your bank files, or talking about money responsibility with your spouse or loved one, Post personal finance columnist Michelle Singletary offers her advice and answers your tough questions.

This Story

Michelle will also take questions about all things finance surrounding your wedding, in participation with washingtonpost.com's Wedding Week 2008.

A transcript follows.

Read Michelle's latest columns, check out her Color of Money Book Club selection archive or sign up for her weekly e-mail newsletter.

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Michelle Singletary: Welcome everyone. Let's get started.

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Help the guests out too!: Ms. Singletary,

Please help dispel some of these gift-giving "requirements" that some seem to be espousing.

First, this notion that as a guest you need to shell out $175 (combined) for an engagement party gift and a shower gift and a wedding gift or not attend the wedding.

I would like to think that couples invite people to their nuptials because they want those people there to share a special day not for gifts.

Second,the idea that engagement parties require gifts in the $50+ range. I don't bring gifts to every party I attend but I understand that some do. Even for one of those, I would think a $6 bottle of wine would suffice.

Third, the really greedy idea that as a guest, you need to cover the cost of your attendance and then some with your gift. As if it is my business what someone spent on their wedding!

So please help out the guests and not just the brides with that no-nonsense wisdom and help stop some of this foolishness.

Michelle Singletary: Well, I think you said it all.

Gifts are not required.

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Colorado Springs, Colo.: Quit reading the !@#!!@# Bride's magazines! Way too much fantasy and destructive expectations.

Practicals: Get married on Friday during the day, squeeze suppliers (have companies bid for the work--we did), use the web, don't buy commercial invites, use an iPod instead of a band, have a friend be the photographer, scale down, don't have cut flowers but rent plants (it's greener--for you and for the environment)...and don't let other people's expectations rule when it comes to planning your special day. My wife and I did all these things and had a wonderful, precious day....

Michelle Singletary: I love all your tips. But I don't think we need to ban people from reading the bride magazines. Just read them with some common sense. I actually loved looking at the pretty dresses and used them to get some ideas but ended up buying my dress at a second-hand store. It was lovely, still is. I hope one of my daughters will wear it some day.

As for me, can't get but one leg in it these days :)

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Washington, D.C.: Michelle, I was reading on yesterday an article regarding the government takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the possible impact that it will have on the availability of FHA loans to assist in first time home ownership for low and middle income families. What are your thoughts?

Michelle Singletary: I don't think you need to worry about FHA loans. In fact more people are going that way these days because they are more affordable and require less of a down payment.

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Catonsville, Md.: Hi Michelle, Loved you on Tom Joyner the other day. I have a question about funding 401(k)s. I have heard the expression fully fund your 401ks. Does that mean fund until you get the match or fund the full IRS limit. I want to start funding a IRA but want to make sure I have funded the 401(k) correctly.

Michelle Singletary: Thank you. It was fun doing the show, they are so crazy.

And fully fund could be both. Fund it enough to get the match or fund it to max out on your limit.

I say fund it for the match first and only up to that if you have other debt to pay down -- car loan, student loan, etc.

If you are free of that bondage then try as you can to hit that max allowed for you. However that's a hefty amount for a lot of folks at $15,500 for this year. But hey if you got it like that go for it.

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Destitination weddings: I hate this trend. Two friends I love and adore live about 25 minutes away from me by car. Instead of getting married where they live here in the D.C. area with her family nearby in Maryland and his in Pennsylvania they are instead traveling to Italy to get married. Lovely in theory but they are both very mad at me that I refused the honor of being the maid of honor as I can not afford the time and money to attend their wedding. Add in all these Friday brides that are having weddings on Fridays and then get mad that you do not take Friday off work to attend. UGH! I love my friends but could you post a PSA that "People need to work and pay their bills and if you expect them to give up vacation time and/or thousands of dollars, when they say no it is not that they do not love you but that you are asking for too much"

Now if my friends can get over the bridezilla enough to know I love them I am just not a millionaire that does not have to work.

Michelle Singletary: I was with you all the way until the Friday thing.

I totally agree about destination weddings for the majority of people who do them. It's like they forget who their peeps are -- working class folks. And if you have kids, like me, what in the world do you do. I'm not paying for my three rugrats to go away to sit there all day asking, "when is this over. I'm bored."

As for Friday, with enough notice I would think you could get the day off for a special friend. Now that I think is worth it.

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Silver Spring, Md.: What is the best reason to get a home equity loan???

Michelle Singletary: Honestly, if your roof is about to cave in or you NEED a repair that if not done could cause even more damage.

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Bowie, Md.: Hi Michelle, Could you please explain how to allocate savings in a bit more detail? I understand the emergency fund equal to three months' income, and we have that. I don't understand the "life happens" fund--how big should it be, should it be in a CD or a savings account, and especially what is it intended to cover? Over the next several years we can reasonably foresee needing to replace our furnace, build a fence, and reroof our house. Should we be saving separately for that type of anticipated expense, the way we would for a car? Thanks! P.S. I'm very glad to see the chat archives are listed now--I thought you'd stopped doing them!

Michelle Singletary: Thanks. Actually you answered your own question.

I see the emergency fund as a dire straights fund -- you lose your job, get sick, a kid gets sick and you have to take off from work for a long time, major, major thing happens.

Life Happens is for as you guess, another car, roof repairs, furnace, etc. These are no doubt major expenses but expected. So you plan for them and pay for them with cash. But if you don't have a separate fund you end up raiding the emergency fun for "stuff." Then when you need it, it's not there.

Keep the life happens in an interest-bearing savings or money market or very, very short CD. But the idea is to keep this money liquid too.

How much depends on your own life. For some they may only need a few hundred, others with major projects like the ones you laid out would need several thousand.

Hope that helps.

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New York: Hey Michelle, Just wanted to say thanks for your sound advice. I just quit a job I hated and was making me so unhappy. I was able to walk away because I have absolutely no debt (except rent ) and more than a year of cash reserves. I now have time to look for a job that I will enjoy and not have to worry about bills during the process. I recently saw a poster that said "Don't put off your happy life". And now that's my motto!

Michelle Singletary: Love your tesitmony. But I love it because you prepared for your kiss this job goodbye. Can't do that if you don't save.

Wish you the best in your job seach.

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Washington, D.C.: Lets all remember: Judge not. If you want to have a slimmed down, less expensive wedding, it's your right, and nobody should judge you for it.

But I am a 30 year old man. My wife and I make good money. And when we got married two years ago, we threw an expensive wedding. We wanted to pamper our guests with the finest food and drink. But of course, people automatically assumed that we either begged the money out of her parents, or went into debt for it.

But we didn't. We've always been good savers, and paid cash for everything.

I've been driving the same beat-up old Saturn for the past 8 years. All my friends tell me to upgrade and get a BMW or a Mercedes. And these are the same people who judge me when I spent 30 grand on a wedding.

I guess my question is this: What do you think it is about weddings that makes it so dividing? Yes, people should not go into debt, or expect others to pay crazy amounts of money to be in their wedding. But at the end of the day, shouoldn't people be allowed to spend their money on what they want?

Michelle Singletary: I absolutely think you did the right thing for you. But look people are judging you because you did it the right way. You saved up, you paid cash for what you wanted. You lived within your means. Great.

What riles me is people who want a $30,000 wedding with no money debt (especially student loan debt) and then try to have their momma, or daddy or auntie whisper to guests that they expect cash instead of a coffee machine.

Or people who have a wedding in a place that means others will be guilt-tripped into going into debt to attend.

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Wedding shake downs: Hello Michelle - love the chats!

What I wish people would not do is invite a million people, in hope of getting more gifts. I was invited to a distant cousin's wedding, who has never even spoken to me as an adult, and has never even visited my mother. I'm attending, because I'm driving my mother to the wedding, but the blatant shake down for money/gifts is offensive.

Michelle Singletary: I so know what you mean. I's so obvious and so cheesy.

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Destination wedding ranter: The problem with Fridays is that I have been invited to 6 this year and not all local. The non locals you are taking off thursday and friday if you go and honestly it gets a bit much. At this stage I get 10 vacation days. 2 weeks. I know that is not odd but I can not attend all these weddings on Fridays. Maybe later when it is one wedding a year and I get a months vacation.

Michelle Singletary: I understand. So rather than complain decide which you truly can go to and decline the other offers.

Seriously, you can say no to a wedding invitation.

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post-wedding finances: Michelle, I know you often say if someone can afford the splurge, then fine. But, how do I know if we have enough saved to finally feel like we can afford x, y, or z? I tell my husband we need emergency & life happens funds, retirement is a given since it is automatically deducted, and saving for our son's college, but, does it make sense to take a needed vacation, if spending the money means we will only have 3 months emergency fund, not 6? If we know we'll have extra money in December due to bonus, is it silly to buy something now at a cheaper price and pay a couple of months interest, or end up paying a higher price than the item and interest would have been combined? (No, that debt wouldn't hang around, we pay our cards off every month.) Thanks.

Michelle Singletary: If you have a good safety net and it sounds like you do then give yourself permission to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

I'm not about living alike a hermit or denying yourself everything. Just be sure the cushion is there even if it isn't a huge cushion. Then you can enjoy yourself.

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Anonymous: I'm really angry about how this is the second huge money/real estate/banking snafu in our country in the last 25 years. The S&L scandal resulting in 3 or 4 persons going to jail for fraud and other violations of federal law or banking regulations. Why not let the whole system fail? If people over-extended and cannot afford their mortgage, tough! More properties on the market drive down prices, so they would not be empty very long, maybe a year. If Freddie and Fannie cannot manage their business, hang the bastards, and let the other investment houses take a bath also. Where is the justice for those of us how pay our bills on time and can manage our money? The federal government needs to let failure work its magic in the markets; we will all be better off for it.

Michelle Singletary: Honestly I feel your frustration. So I'll let you vent.

But in some cases even the stupid have to be saved of nothing else to keep the rest of us who did do the right thing from suffering.

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Arnold, Md.: Michelle,

I'm submitting early because I have to miss the chat, and so I apologize in advance for all the detail.

I moved my family here in 2005 and bought a home near the top of the housing market. Now my company is going to transfer me later this fall, either to Albany or Delaware, but they're not going to help with living expenses. We have been saving to pay cash for a new car to replace my 17-year-old car, and we should get there in another year. But the new financial uncertainty is making us rethink everything. There's no way we can get back what we paid for our house, let alone make a profit, if we sold it now. If they send me to Albany, should we sell the house at a loss, or keep the house for my wife and kids to live in and get a cheap apartment for me in Albany, at least until the market allows us the ability to break even on selling the house? If they send me to Delaware, should I reverse-supercommute? (It's not near Amtrak, unfortunately.) In that case, does it make sense to borrow half the cash for the new car and buy a hybrid, with the expectation that the gas savings will mitigate the interest on the car loan? Or should we take the money we've been saving for a car, along with any other cash bonuses that might come along, and start paying down the principal on our mortgage, to cushion the blow? Or is liquidity the best choice in this fluid situation? (In general we are good Singletarians, with no debt apart from the mortgage, an emergency fund, etc.)

There's a lot of uncertainty in this situation and we need a handhold to get started. Any help you can offer would be great. Thanks.

Michelle Singletary: You poor dear. Something doing all the right things still can't save you from life.

First, keep the family together. I don't like the idea of the man of the house not being there. And frankly this is what the emergency fund is for. If you can rent the house for the mortgage try that and then rent where you end up for at least a year until you know you are settled there and have had time to figure out the best place to live.

If you can't rent for the mortgage try to sell, even if you have to bring money to the table. If you have to short sell (meaning selling for less than the house is worth) join millions others today.

As for the car, getting one with good gas mileage is just eh smart thing to do no mater your commute. But I woudl keep the commute short so you stil have time with your family.

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Wedding vs. Party: To what extent can I get away with telling vendors and locations that I'm having a "party" rather than a "wedding"? It's crazy to me that the same flowers or space costs one amount for parties and twice that amount for weddings. Can I tell the reception location it's a party and then happen to show up in a wedding dress?

Michelle Singletary: Honestly if priceless!

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Laurel, Md.: Hi Michelle! I know you are the best source for straight-talk money advice, and I need some. Getting married soon, talking about starting a family and want to buy a house. We are worried if we start the family before the house, we will never be able to save enough to get a 20 percent down payment. But, we have no down payment now. How stupid is it to put almost no money down on a house? Is it really possible? I've heard that it's the dumbest thing ever, but I've also heard if you don't plan on moving for awhile it could be an option.

Michelle Singletary: Congrats on your upcoming nuptials.

First, probably not possible at all to get a house without money down. If FHA at least 3 percent, anything else you are looking at 5 to 10 if you have stellar credit.

If it were me, I would get married, spend time with spouse and work thu all the stuff that happens in the first two or three years (like not trying to kill each other). Also use that time to save more (first emergeny fund, life happens fund, pay off any debt (car, student loan), then start saving for a house.

Houses will be here. First make sure your financial house is sound and can stand up to a lot, like having a baby.

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Wedding shake down or...reunion: My family views weddings as an opportunity to have a good reason to get together- distant cousin or not. Yes, it brings people out of the woodwork but that's exactly the point. Too often, we don't see these distant relatives and it's a shame that it doesn't happen more often.

When my sister recently got married, it was an opportunity for cousins and second cousins to reunite. Plus, it was in an area where my parents lived as young adults. They got to reunite with old friends they hadn't seen in over thirty years.

You always have a choice to go to a wedding, but perhaps it will be more exciting if you look at it as an opportunity to find out more about your roots. Maybe you'll be glad you've never really known this distant cousin. Maybe you'll find out something about your distant family that you will love and want to get to know more!

Michelle Singletary: Good points. But I think she or he was feeling the invite was more about bring your wallet. If not, then you are right.

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Ellicott City, Md.:"But in some cases even the stupid have to be saved if nothing else to keep the rest of us who did do the right thing from suffering."

Amen to that! We bought less house then we could afford, the only home-equity was for new windows, drive our cars into the ground, etc -- pretty frugal. But if the neighborhoods fill up with foreclosed houses, property values plummet, and the economy tanks it doesn't do us any good. I also hate the idea of rescuing people who didn't make prudent choices, but letting the economy collapse isn't too practical. There's also that notion of "Christian charity" (that is really a foundation of all religions) to consider.

Michelle Singletary: Amen right back at you!

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Destination weddings: My wife and I had a very frugal, but memorable and fun wedding ($3K bought a dress, suit, paid for the wedding, reception, and honeymoon). But a lot of my friends who are now getting married are looking into having a destination wedding. I think it is a great idea - as long as people remember that not everyone can make it. So go to Italy, or Australia, or China - just don't get mad that some friends and family won't make the trip. And friends and family that can't make it - do the same thing. Don't get upset - just explain that you can't go - and wish the couple a fantastic time.

Michelle Singletary: Keeping the peace.

Great mantra!

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Alexandria, Va.: Michelle, I loved the "anti-wedding article," but was upset by the main photo spread of a couple of color who had to have spent $100,000 (a recently-married friend says more like $150,000) on their wedding. It's wonderful if they could afford it, but even so, there had to be a much better use for that money!

washingtonpost.com: The Anti-Wedding (Post, Sept. 7)

Michelle Singletary: The only way to know is to know what their financial life is like. If they covered all other bases, we can't really say.

Me, I wouldn't spend that kind of money. I would rather help someone go to college, get a house, give it to charity, etc. BUT it is there money so we can only hope they were wise and giving aside from this expenditure.

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White Plains, Md.: Had an interesting encounter at the vets office, when she suggested a test for my dog that costs $1,200, she then went into a long discussion on how I could make payments, charge it, etc. Should I be insulted that she believed that I didn't have $1,200 or would it be more normal for someone not to have the money? Maybe I should start dressing better?

Michelle Singletary: Me, I would have just laughed!

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Washington, D.C.: My guy asked me to sign a prenup. We love each other but we're practical people and he makes more money than me, so whatever, it's fine. But generally speaking, how involved should I be in putting this thing together? I feel like since it's meant to protect him for the most part, it'd be weird for me to butt in, but I also feel like I should get a say. I don't know how to not get financially screwed in this ...

Michelle Singletary: Okay, I've changed my position on this just a tiny bit.

I wouldn't sign one. But if you don't mind, get your own attorney and make sure it's fair to you. It's not all about him. If he wants you to go into this marriage and leave with nothing, including whatever you BOTH earned during the marriage I would kick him to the curb.

At the very least hire a lawyer girl. Don't sign the document without one.

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Oakton, Va.: I've recently started selling on eBay. I used to use eBay like a garage sale and I think last year I made about $200. This year I've made about $800. When do I have to start reporting income to the IRS? Thanks!

Michelle Singletary: If you have to file a return, all your income is supposed to be reported. What you get to keep depends on deductions, credits.

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Washington D.C.: My wife and I are aggressively paying down our law school loans, maxing out our 401(k)'s, and have saved $25K in an emergency fund. Our goal is to have all of our loans paid off in 3 1/2 more years. We knew things would be tight post-law school - and we are lucky to be able to pay our debt off so quickly. But because we are sticking to this plan - we are living on a strict budget. But her parents keep making comments about how we are rich lawyers - which really upsets my wife b/c she doesn't know how to respond. We do make a lot of money - but we are also using over half of our pay to pay off loans early. What would you say to them?

Michelle Singletary: Have her say this,

"Yup, mom and dad, I'm rich in love."

Nothing else. But in her head she can be thinking, "Our money. Our business. Debt Free."

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Inexpensive weddings....: From a guest's perspective... I went to a wedding earlier this summer that was for two school teachers (i.e., not rolling in money). Their wedding was on a Friday evening at the beach. Awesome! We took all of Friday off and enjoyed the beach earlier in the day. Ceremony was at a small church. Reception was at a restaurant, which also provided the food. There were about 50 guests, so it was a smaller wedding. The bride's mom made the cake. It was delicious, and better than many 'fancy' cakes. We also got more than a 2x2 square of it. Various relatives brought 2 or 3 dozen of their 'signature' cookies, brownies, or other treat, so we all got to taste test and compare. The bride's cool college aged brother deejayed from pre-made CDs. This also meant that there was no annoying deejay telling off color jokes or trying to force everyone to dance. It was a perfectly lovely wedding, and I left feeling like I had been part of a celebration of the couple, not of consumerism.

Michelle Singletary: Lovely.

But so to can be one ina hotel with all the fuss and stuff -- but only if you can afford it.

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Trenton , N.J.: Your timing is perfect! I was just invited to a co-worker's wedding. I've known her for several years. I am friendly with her at work, but we don't socialize outside of work and I don't know her fiance. She is an older woman, it's a second marriage and a small wedding. What is an appropriate gift range? Haven't been to a wedding in years, so I'm really out of the loop. Thanks for your help.

Michelle Singletary: You know there really isn't a "gift range" in my opinion. Just think of something nice she might like. Ask other co-workers who might know. You give what you think is right even if it's a $10 gift card.

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Ref Post-fiannces wedding: No, I'm not getting married. but the life happens fund is really never enough. Michelle, even though you stated "if you feel" you have enough.

Well, I'm single with 90K (cash) and 120K (401k), no car note and mtg AND still feel it's not enough because it's just me with less than 7K student loans and a 96 car, which I'm afraid to buy a new one with a steady job... Now what????

Michelle Singletary: Replace your fear with faith.

You have a lot of money and fear.

So do some homework. Figure out if you lost your job how long it would take to find another one. How long coudl you then live off what you have. If you have enough fund to cover that then you have enough.

Also, why are you hanging on to that student loan with $90,000 in bank? CRAZY. Pay it off. That's one less thing to worry about.

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Friday weddings: Michelle:

I have to take issue with your comment that, with enough notice, taking a day off for a special friend is not asking too much.

I get 15 days of paid-time off (PTO) a year. That's vacation, sick time, personal time, EVERYTHING. Asking me to take a day off is asking a lot when it means I will have to work when I'm sick because I don't have the time to take.

Michelle Singletary: Fine, then dont' take the day off.

Really, you are sounding like you don't have control over your life. If you don't have a lot of days off and you want to use them all for you, fine. Don't go to the weddings. Send a nice card, gift or nothing.

Or call and invite the bride and groom out later on a Sat. or Sunday.

Geesh. You are a grown adult. Do what you want and stop complaining.

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Washingotn, D.C.: What do you think of gift registries for weddings? I know that the bride is not supposed to mention that she has a registry (as in, don't put this information on the wedding, shower, or engagement invitations). So, if the bride's not supposed to talk about the registry, is it better not to have one? Or is it tacky not to have one?

This is all so confusing...

Michelle Singletary: I don't know. First thought they were okay then as I looked at what people put down I thought "these people are crazy."

So, to make life easy get one if you like, have close family or friends spread the word. But when you do register don't be trying to put down things you would never buy cuz it's a registry.

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Friday weddings: The Friday weddings are the logical result of people insisting that they get married in a particular venue, and then discovering that it is booked for the next 100 weekends, or that it is 100 percent more expensive on the weekends than on weekdays. It still comes out of the same Queen-for-a-Day wedding mentality. I think Friday weddings are selfish, frankly. It's about making people jump through hoops for you.

Michelle Singletary: Really, is this what we are left to...criticizing people for trying to save money for having a Friday wedding?

I'm not on that boat folks. I'm on do what's affordable and keep others in mind when you plan your wedding. So fine if you have a ton of family and friends who have limited days off because of the nature of their job don't have a Friday wedding.

In fact, have a small wedding on Sat. or Sun and invite as many people as you can feed. Or as I keep saying find a free backyard, get some red Kool-Aid and a supermarket cake.

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Washington, D.C.: We're getting married in four months and I'm thrilled, but there's one issue that's causing a rift -- bank accounts. I think we being married means sharing an account, merging our finances and making money choices together. He's totally against it and wants us to keep our separate accounts. I feel like it either means he doesn't trust me (I've got great credit and am fiscally responsible), or that he doesn't want me to know how he spends his money. He insists neither is the case but I can't figure out why he wouldn't want to share an account ...

Michelle Singletary: STOP. Don't get married until you resolve this.

Get thee to a counselor. I mean that. Cancel or postpone the wedding if you have to.

I'm in the merge everthing camp. But you've got to be on the same page on this or you are in for a lot of fights.

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Pittsburgh, Pa.: I have a big, crazy, close-knit family (Make the family from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" Italian, and that's us). I've always wanted a big, traditional wedding, but when I start multiplying what I want by family members, the cost is scary. If I pare down the guest list, my family will be aghast and hurt. Can I ask for financial contributions in lieu of gifts? I don't really need a new blender but if Auntie Ann can chip in for some of the florist bill or something, that'd be so much better.

Michelle Singletary: You cannot ask for money.

You have to be big girl (or guy) and plan what you can afford even if it means not having a Big Fat ???? Wedding.

Will some be upset. Probably. Will that some pay your bills, bail you out of debt? Probably not. Of if they do, talk about you like a dog.

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Langley, Va.: Hi Michelle,

Love your chats, but only occasionally get to read them in real time.

Loved your response to Arnold, Md., the gentleman faced with the transfer dilemma.

And, don't be too hard on the vet (I am a vet), we try to ease money discussions with clients because sometimes they really do worry about paying for expensive tests and procedures, so to avoid a potentially awkward moment, some vets will immediately launch into options. Not meant to be insulting at all.....

Thanks!

Michelle Singletary: Good point. I don't get upset or insulted when people offer me something expensive. I think if I want it or can afford it and go from there.

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Newberry, S.C. : Hi Michelle,

I want to send a shout out to a bride-to-be who isn't a bridezilla. Her name is Candice and I will be a bridesmaid in her wedding. I met her in graduate school and we both finished in May. Because the other particpants range in age from 16-39(me) Candice decided not to pick expensive bridesmaids dresses that no one could use again so she told us the color and to just pick a party dress. She is getting married on a Thursday (her 10 year anniversary) in a park with the rehersal dinner being held at a pizza place (major savings). Because she is an art director she created the save-the-date, invitations and RSVP cards herself. She bought her wedding dress at a vintage shop and had a seamstress cut it down to size. She will have cool finger foods and a cupcake tower instead of a huge wedding cake. She has a normal afffordable registry. She doesn't stalk her bridesmaids with outrageous demands or boring talk ie "selecting napkin colors". Everything she has done reflects her artistic quirky style and she did it with class without spending a lot of cash that she doesn't have. Even though I will spend approximately 3 days (traveling and participating) away from home and lookig for a job, I don't care because Candice really thought about everyone when she planned her wedding.

Why can't other brides be this way?

Michelle Singletary: You go Candice.

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Mt. Pleasant, Mich.: Thanks for all your good advice. Couldn't help but comment on what you said about your wedding dress--that you could only get one leg in it now. I also bought my wedding dress WAY on sale, and after being married 34 years, dieted my way back into it. My husband's response: Are you going to need to wear it anytime soon?

Again, love your columns and chats.

Mary

Michelle Singletary: LOL!!!!!!!!!!

I got another one. My husband asked me if I wanted to upgrade my wedding rings -- guess that's the in thing now.

To which I said, "Do I get to upgrade you?"

Nope sticking with the great guy I married and the great but reasonably priced rings he bought. So far so good. Going on 17 years. At least my fingers are still slim.

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Washington, D.C.:"I can't figure out why he wouldn't want to share an account ..."

If you can't ask him, you are NOT ready to be married. ASK him!

Michelle Singletary: I think she did ask him. He doesn't really know (at least that's what I recall as I try to zoom thu these questions).

But the bottom line is still the same. The two need more talking before the walking...down the aisle.

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re: Friday weddings, etc.: While you're at it, why not charge admission and have it on a Wedneday morning? Certainly that falls within the "only do it if it's affordable" category?

There's a balance -- you've got to do what's within your means, but also do what you can to be a good host. If having it on a Saturday is too expensive, I would be more inclined to change the venue to a more affordable place in order to ease the burden on my guests AND my pocketbook. I think shaming the folks who don't want to take a vacation day for a Friday wedding is out of line -- this, in the country with the least amount of vacation days per year. Some of us working folks just can't take time off easily...it's just reality.

Michelle Singletary: I thought I has said enough about this Friday thing.

I SAID think about what you can afford AND your guest.

That's it for me and this Friday thing. Go if you can. Don't go if you can't.

Think about your guests. Have the wedding you can afford without debt or hitting up relatives and friends.

Geesh.

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Merge EVERYTHING?: Can his negative credit score affect my score? My fiance has errors which need to be corrected, however we are getting married next month.

Is there anything I can do?

Michelle Singletary: Won't affect your score.

Go to www.fico.com and FTC to find tips on cleaning up bad information on your reports.

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Re: Wedding vs. Party:"Michelle Singletary: Honestly if priceless!"

So is that is a yes or a no??

Michelle Singletary: Tell the truth. Don't deceive vendors.

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Council Bluffs, Iowa: Hi Michelle. Even though there was a "registry" chat yesterday, I value your opinion on this issue so much more. My fiance and I are professionals in our late 20's. We have established households, no children and very little debt (besides the mortgage.) We are more materially comfortable than many of my aunts, uncles and cousins who struggle with medical bills, putting kids through college, etc. I feel uncomfortable registering for anything because we don't NEED anything and it just feels wrong to ask our less-well-off family members to buy us china we don't need (and even worse to ask for frivolous items like an ice-cream maker!) My fiance agrees that we don't need anything, but he thinks "charity registries" (requesting people donate money to an outside organization)are tacky. What do you think is a responsible, morally upright way for couples who don't need anything to address their registry?

washingtonpost.com: Wedding Week: All About Registries

Michelle Singletary: In your case -- and love that you are thinking about others -- I wouldn't register for anything, even the charities. It's like telling people what to do with the money.

So just tell folks you would love for them to attend and no gift is necessary (if they ask).

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re: merging accounts: my husband and I merged, and that is where paychecks are deposited. But we each still have our own accounts where money is auto drafted each month, a sort of small allowance to keep us sane. That way I don't pick at his $7 coffee or anything. Maybe you and your fiance can work out something like that. I hope he isn't hiding debt or crazy spending habits, that can be though to work through. Just remember not to judge!

Michelle Singletary: Not a bad idea. As long as both names are on the separate "allowance" account.

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Prenups: Prenups are not a bad idea if the two members of the couple each have significant assets and other obligations (children, businesses, etc.) I'm always astonished at the people who insist on them simply because they make more than their intended, particularly when the two members of the couple are under 40. The whole point of marriage is to share and build a life together, not to have a refrigerator full of leftover-filled tupperware with "mine" and "yours" labels on them.How do you account for the decision to have the less-wealthy partner stay home with their future children? The possibilities that have to be contemplated are far too complex and theoretical. Alternatively, there is some value in having the conversation before the marriage in order to understand each other's positions on important life issues.

Michelle Singletary: You said it.

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Reston, Va.: Michelle, I need your help even though I'm afraid of what you might say. How do you justify a $30,000 wedding? Even when you hear that's the average cost of a wedding in the area, even when you try to save where you can, even if it's exactly what you want and no one is going into debt over it....it's still a lot of money for one day, and could be used elsewhere. Is there no justification and should I just consider myself crazy/greedy?

Michelle Singletary: If you have major things covered -- no debt than perhaps a mortgage, savings, saving for your retirement at a good clip, etc. then it's your money and your day.

I wouldn't spend that much that that's me and my values.

I only get into this fray when people have debt -- student loans, major car loans, etc. AND?OR they hope/pray/beg guests to give cash in hopes to pay off the wedding.

So if you got it like that -- and I mean really got it like that -- you have an emergency fund, life happens fund, no debt, give to charity, etc. -- have the wedding you want and can truly afford.

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Bowie, Md.: Hello Michelle,

My wife and I were victims of the Financial Independence Group Network Marketing Mortgage Scam, which you have previously written articles about and investigated. I would like to send you a more specific email pertaining to our particular situation but in general I wanted to know what ,if any recourse do we have or is there any action we could take to get out of this mess because they were not licensed to do business in the State of Maryland.

washingtonpost.com: The Get-Rich Pitch, Then the Letdown (Color of Money, Oct. 14) and see Michelle's archive page for more covrage.

Michelle Singletary: Please, please e-mail me singeletarym@washpost.com about your case.

In the meantime the articles in the series tells you who to contact to complain.

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Washington, D.C.: My husband and I had a "hippie" wedding back in 1969. We had a cookout at Rock Creek park, pot luck burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, cole slaw, beer, soda and water. Next year will be 40 years or marital bliss (most of the time!), 5 children, and friends who still tell us what a great time they had at our wedding. My Dad bought a case of champagne, but was able to return most of it tot he store. Obviously this isn't for everyone, but it's worked well for us. (And yes, the weather cooperated beautifully.)

Michelle Singletary: Nice note to end on.

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Michelle Singletary: Well folks, I have to got to go.

Good luck if you are getting married soon. I wish you the best. Don't hit up your friends and family for money. Be mindful of your guests (avoid friday weddings if you can just to give me peace) and get counseling before you do the deed to make sure you're on the same page financially.

Take care.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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